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Car Dealer Customer Reviews and the Law

28th February 2017

With online reviews becoming increasingly important to consumers to aid their buying decisions, car dealers need to be aware of the impact customer reviews can have on their businesses, whether it be the effect on their car dealer website SEO or the influence they have on potential customers.

According to a publication on the gov.uk website, more than half of UK adults are now using online reviews. UK automotive survey company JudgeService say 97% of survey respondents use the internet for vehicle research, with 83% using social media for vehicle research and expecting to find customer reviews to help assess a dealer’s service. It is easy to see why many dealers are keen to try and increase their number of positive online reviews.

However, many businesses may not be aware that if they write reviews themselves, or have commissioned reviews that mislead consumers they may be breaking the law.

In 2016, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) took action against an online marketing company that was found to be posting fake reviews on behalf of their small business clients from a variety of sectors across different websites.

Dealers should ensure that any external marketing company they engage follow the rules, and also make sure that all of their own staff are made aware that they should not post reviews or ratings about their employer’s business implying they are a customer as this could land the business in trouble.

It is also not an acceptable practice to offer money or gifts to customers in return for positive reviews. While dealers are free to ask their customers to leave a review about their experience on a platform of their choice, customers should be able to decide whether they would like to leave a review or not, free from any pressure or incentives.

With car buyers placing more and more trust in online reviews when planning their next purchase, Google has started to include ratings from trusted third-party review sites within a businesses’ Local Knowledge Panel. These panels, including a map of where the business is located, are shown once dealers have set up a Google Business Page, and appear to users performing a google search for the dealer’s company name on the right hand side of the screen.

While it is impractical for dealers to ensure that every customer has a perfect experience, with the occasional unhappy customer being part of the job, dealers should ensure that their handling of their issues and any negative reviews will not deter potential customers. Most importantly, dealers should ensure that any response to an unfavourable review is constructed in a professional manner, as a knee-jerk reaction that has taken the review personally could do more damage to the businesses’ reputation than the actual review itself.

Each negative review should be investigated fully, responded to in a positive manner, and learned from – customer feedback is essential if businesses are to improve their service. If dealers are receiving more negative reviews than positive, this could be a symptom of an underlying operational problem. The dealer should urgently look at their own internal processes to identify why they are falling short of their customers’ expectations and make improvements.

Dealers should also focus on making the most of the positive reviews they have amassed across different platforms over time by incorporating them into their marketing activities. Utilising customer reviews across car dealer websites, social media and advertisement campaigns could be a very powerful tool for dealers, as they are widely-regarded as a very effective form of marketing.

Furthermore, instead of dealers simply just copying and pasting customer reviews in to their marketing activity, they should look at each review individually and give context for maximum impact. For example, ‘Another happy customer, who has taken delivery of his fifth car from us in ten years’.

For those dealers that run Google AdWords campaigns, incorporating third-party reviews in to Pay-Per-Click (PPC) adverts can often result in a sharp increase in click-through rates (CTR) and
conversions across your chosen keywords.

More information on the rules and regulations surrounding online reviews are on the Government’s official Guidance Page

 

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